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Pakistan: Extend Afghan Refugee Status Through 2017

Friday, 22 January 2016 00:00 Written by

The Pakistani government should reduce rights violations against Afghan refugees by extending their legal residency status until at least December 31, 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. On January 12, 2016, the government extended registered Afghan refugees’ Proof of Residency (PoR) cards until June 30, 2016.

“What Are You Doing Here?”

Police Abuses Against Afghans in Pakistan

As Human Rights Watch has documented, the uncertain residency status of Afghan refugees in Pakistan has encouraged police harassment, threats, and extortion of Afghan refugees, particularly since the December 2014 attack on a Peshawar school by the Pakistani Taliban.

“Pakistan’s six-month residency extension reduces Afghan refugees’ insecurity, but the government also needs to stop police abuse of refugees,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. “A two-year extension both sends the message that refugees shouldn’t be pressured to go home and would give officials time to work out resettlement to third countries and other longer-term solutions.”

The temporary extension of the PoR cards, which officially recognize their holders’ status as “Afghan citizen[s] temporarily residing in Pakistan,” is a relief to the country’s 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees whose existing PoR cards had expired on December 31, 2015. However, the six-month extension falls far short of the end-2017 date recommended by the Ministry for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON). The extension also fails to address the insecurity among refugees over the duration of that status and uncertainty regarding protection should the government end PoR status.

That insecurity is exacerbated by implicit and explicit threats by Pakistani officials over the past year, saying that after the expiration of their PoR cards, their holders become “illegal aliens and have no right to stay [in Pakistan].”

Pakistan is host to one of the largest displaced populations in the world. The 2.5 million Afghan refugees, which according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) include an estimated 1 million undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan as of November 2015, consist of many who fled conflict and repression in Afghanistan during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and their descendants. Some arrived as children, grew up in Pakistan, married, and had children of their own who have never lived in Afghanistan. Others have arrived in the decades of turmoil in Afghanistan since, seeking security, employment, and a higher standard of living.

Afghans in Pakistan have experienced a sharp increase in hostility since the so-called Pakistani Taliban, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, killing 145 people, including 132 children. The Pakistani government responded to the attack with repressive measures including the introduction of military courts to prosecute terrorism suspects, executions after the lifting of an unofficial moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and proposals to register and repatriate Afghans living in Pakistan. On June 23, the federal minister for the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, Gen. (Rtd.) Abdul Qadir Baloch, announced that there would be no official reprisals against the country’s Afghan population in response to the Peshawar attack. Despite that promise, Pakistani police have pursued an unofficial policy of punitive retribution that has included raids on Afghan settlements; detention, harassment, and physical violence against Afghans; extortion; and the demolition of Afghan homes.

Such police abuses have prompted fearful Afghans to restrict their movements, leading to economic hardship and curtailing access to education and employment. This oppressive situation has prompted large numbers of Afghans to return to Afghanistan, where they face a widening conflict and continuing insecurity. Deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan prompted more than 80,000 Afghans to leave their country in 2015 and seek asylum in Europe. The return of Afghans uprooted by police abuses in Pakistan, where many have lived for decades, to Afghanistan may add to the numbers of those seeking refuge in Europe as conditions deteriorate in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan could reduce police abuses by extending residency cards for Afghan refugees,” Kine said. “This would also provide the government space to develop a long-term, rights-respecting solution for the Afghan refugees.”

Aus, India to hold talks on counter-terrorism, cyber security

Monday, 26 October 2015 00:00 Written by

Melbourne, Oct 26 (PTI) Australia and India will hold talks on counter-terrorism, cyber security and international crime cooperation in New Delhi during the ongoing official visit of Trade Minister and Attorney General.

The discussions will be held during the official visit of Australian Attorney-General George Brandis who is in India along with Trade Minister Andrew Robb.

Brandis is on official visit to India from October 25 to 29. He will be meeting key government counterparts besides participating in the Australia-India Leadership Dialogue.

"I will use the visit to engage on matters of national security and to encourage greater security and legal cooperation between Australia and India," Brandis said yesterday.

"India is a key international partner for Australia on counter-terrorism, cyber security and international crime cooperation," he said, adding that he will be discussing these issues with Indian side where the two sides will share experiences and responses to the evolving threats.

"I will provide an update on Australia's legislative reforms and deradicalisation programs and will be interested in hearing from my Indian colleagues about their response to this growing problem," Brandis said.

"It is important that we work together to mitigate the threat of foreign fighters and to counter violent extremism.

Options for improving bilateral cooperation on countering violent extremism will be explored under the India-Australia Security Framework which was agreed to in 2014," he added.

Brandis is also participating in the inaugural Australia- India Leadership Dialogue, a forum which will provide a platform for leaders from a range of sectors, including government, corporate and academia to come together to further develop the Australia-India bilateral relationship and to enhance the links between the two countries.

"My visit will also support efforts to enhance legal services access for Australian lawyers in India, which is an important area of discussion in the Australia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation negotiations," he said.

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Amnesty warns human rights abuses ‘unabated’ before Bahrain Grand Prix

Saturday, 18 April 2015 00:00 Written by

A major report from Amnesty International released to coincide with this weekend’s Formula One grand prix has warned that human rights abuses in Bahrain continue “unabated” despite repeated assurances from the authorities that the situation is improving.

The Bahrain Grand Prix has become a prism through which human rights groups have sought to focus attention on the situation in the country after protests in the capital by pro-democracy campaigners in 2011 caused the race to be cancelled.

The Amnesty report details dozens of cases of detainees being beaten, deprived of sleep and adequate food, burned with cigarettes, sexually assaulted, subjected to electric shocks and burned with an iron. One was raped by having a plastic pipe inserted into his anus.

It said the report showed torture, arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force against peaceful activists and government critics remained widespread inBahrain.

The organisation said the report showed the Bahraini authorities continued to abuse human rights despite repeatedly insisting they had exceeded the provisions set out in a report produced by the UN-backed Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in 2011.

Earlier this year the UK’s foreign secretary Philip Hammond praised Bahrain as a country “travelling in the right direction” and other western countries have praised Bahrain’s progress.

But Amnesty concludes: “More than three years after Bahrain agreed at the highest level to accept and implement all the BICI recommendations, the steps introduced so far – while positive on a number of aspects – have been piecemeal and have had little impact in practice.”

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Partly due to the unapologetic attitude of the Formula One chief, Bernie Ecclestone, who has tilted the calendar away from Europe and towards Asia and the Middle East, the sport has found itself at the centre of the debate over whether human rights should be a factor in staging major sporting events.

Two years ago Ecclestone said he thought Bahrain was “stupid” to host the grand prix because it gave demonstrators a platform to protest. He said it was not for him to judge how a county ran its own affairs. “We’re not here, or we don’t go anywhere, to judge how a country is run,” he said. “Human rights are that the people that live in a country abide by the laws of that country.”

Dissidents and exiled campaigners have warned that hosting the race increases instances of human rights abuses because authorities clamp down further on freedom of speech and assembly.

Amnesty’s report alleges the authorities have conducted a “chilling” crackdown on dissent, with activists and government critics rounded up and jailed, including some detained for posting comments on Twitter or – in one case – for reading a poem at a religious festival. Public demonstrations in Manama, the capital, have been banned for nearly two years.

Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director, said: “As the world’s eyes fall on Bahrain during the grand prix this weekend, few will realise the international image the authorities have attempted to project of the country as a progressive reformist state committed to human rights masks a far more sinister truth.

“Four years on from the uprising, repression is widespread and rampant abuses by the security forces continue. The notion that Bahrain respects freedom of expression is pure fiction. Where is the freedom in a country where peaceful activists, dissidents and opposition leaders are repeatedly rounded up and arbitrarily arrested simply for tweeting their opinions, and reading a poem can get you thrown in jail?”

The Bahraini authorities have pointed to the economic benefits of hosting the grand prix, arguing it supports the employment of 4,000 locals and brings almost $300m into the economy.

This week, an organisation called Americans for Democracy on Human Rights in Bahrain said it had mediated an agreement with Formula One to implement a policy that analyses the human rights impact its presence might have on a host country. How that works in practice remains to be seen.

It said: “As a result of that process, Formula One Group has committed to taking a number of further steps to strengthen its processes in relation to human rights in accordance with the standards provided for by the guidelines. Formula One also takes this opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to respect internationally recognised human rights”.

During the mediation process Nabeel Rajab, a member of ADHRB’s advisory board and the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was arrested.

The organisation said: “This arrest amounts to a signal that the government will broach no criticism or dissent before or during the race, which has previously attracted significant anti-government protest.”

China ready to sign friendship treaties with all neighbours:Xi

Saturday, 28 March 2015 00:00 Written by

Beijing, Mar 28 (PTI) Chinese President Xi Jinping today said that China stands ready to sign treaties of friendship and cooperation with all its neighbours to provide strong support for the development of bilateral relations as well as prosperity and stability in the region.

Malaysia to release MH370 probe report in March

Thursday, 29 January 2015 00:00 Written by

Kuala Lumpur, Jan 28 (INBN) Malaysia will release an interim report on the investigation into the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on March 7, a day before the first anniversary of the mysterious disappearance of the plane along with 239 people, including five Indians, on board.

Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi said the country's Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) will release the report which will focus on the investigation only.

India Blocks China’s Attempt to Take Over South Asian Group

Saturday, 03 January 2015 00:00 Written by

In late November, New Delhi blocked Beijing’s attempt to gain membership in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, and Afghanistan are the seven other full members of what some call a club of poor nations.

 
 
 
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At the group’s 18th summit, held in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, Beijing allies Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka pushed for China’s upgrading from observer status to full membership. India sought to defeat the initiative because SAARC, as the organization is known, operates on consensus and New Delhi feared that China would block its initiatives in the future.

The last thing the group needs is more obstructionism. By all accounts, the Kathmandu meeting, whose motto was “Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity,” was not a success. That is not especially surprising because SAARC is itself considered a failure, with little to show since it was formed in 1985. “SAARC represents the EU approach to South Asia,” writes M. A. Niazi, an Indian journalist, but unfortunately South Asia is not Europe, where leaders are intent on integrating their economies and societies.

Yet, despite everything, the South Asian grouping is becoming an important platform for India, now intent on countering China’s attempts to dominate South Asia.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signaled that SAARC would play a big role in his foreign policy from the very beginning. Creating a great deal of optimism at the time, he invited the leaders of the seven other nations—including Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif—to his inauguration in late May. Since then, not much has been accomplished in furthering SAARC’s objectives.

For one thing, Pakistan is unsure about integration within the group, especially since India, considered its primary adversary, is SAARC’s dominate member. Ultimately, Islamabad’s reluctance may not matter. Modi appears increasingly impatient with the Pakistanis. He and Sharif slighted each other in Kathmandu and then Modi indicated India was going to go ahead with his initiatives, with SAARC or without it. “The bonds will grow,” the Indian prime minister told the seven other leaders at the Kathmandu summit. “Through SAARC or outside it. Among us all or some of us.”

Yet Pakistani obstinance is not the only barrier to progress. Local Indian politics during Modi’s short tenure has hindered India playing its natural role as leader of the region. In 2014, he let opposition in the state of West Bengal halt links with Bangladesh, and let resistance in Tamil Nadu slow outreach to Sri Lanka.

Modi may think of India as the core of South Asia and the center of SAARC, but China is moving into the region fast, marginalizing New Delhi. Take Nepal, the host of the recent summit. At the end of December, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Kathmandu for a three-day visit to deliver help to Nepal, especially assistance in generating electricity.  Beijing will increase official annual aid more than five-fold, from $24 million to $128 million. Moreover, China will spend additional money to build a police academy for Nepal.

Across the region, India sees more and more evidence of Chinese involvement. Beijing’s officials first build relationships with small states on India’s periphery with aid and trade and then move on to establishing military ties. “China’s strategy toward South Asia is premised on encircling India and confining her within the geographical coordinates of the region,” writes Harsh Pant of King’s College London. “This strategy of using proxies started off with Pakistan and has gradually evolved to include other states in the region, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.” If India is now surrounded, it is largely New Delhi’s fault. As Pant notes, “India’s protectionist tendencies have allowed China to don the mantle of regional economic leader.”

China’s penetration of South Asia and the rest of the continent is so complete that Akhilesh Pillalamarri, who writes at the Diplomatbelieves New Delhi has no real choice but to sign onto “Asia’s emerging ‘Chinese Order.’” Beijing, he says, is rearranging trade routes through the continent so that they run through China. “There is no alternative for India but to become a part of this order or remain unintegrated, since it is too late for India to set up its own Asian order.”

China is certainly using its trade prowess, but pronouncements that the game is over for New Delhi are premature. Businessweek believes India’s growth rate could overtake China’s in 2016, in what the magazine calls “a world-turned-upside-down moment.” In reality, that point has probably passed, as Chinese reports of economic performance look exaggerated.

In any event, India can, through a combination of fast growth and progressive trade policies, win back its region from Beijing. China can afford to buy the loyalty of South Asian leaders for only a few more years if its economy is as bad as it now appears.

“The truth is, India comes into its own on the world stage when it carries the neighborhood with it,” correctly notes the Hindu, an English-language daily in the Indian city of Chennai, in an editorial at the end of November. That is the crucial test for the Modi government.

CIA chief defends agency, but admits''abhorrent'' abuses

Friday, 12 December 2014 00:00 Written by

Washington, Dec 12 (PTI) The CIA chief has defended the techniques used by the interrogators on terror suspects post 9/11 attacks but admitted that in limited number of cases the methods had not been authorized and were "abhorrent".

"There was information obtained, subsequent to the application of enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs), from detainees that was useful in the (Osama) bin Laden operation," CIA Director John Brennan said in a rare media briefing after a Senate report into Central Intelligence Agency's treatment of terrorism suspects triggered global revulsion.

Brennan said the internal CIA reviews indicate that the detention and interrogation program produced useful intelligence that helped the US thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives.

He, however, said it was difficult to ascertain that the use of EITs had yielded useful intelligence.

"We have not concluded that it was the use of EITs within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. The cause and effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable," he said.

"Irrespective of the role EITs might play in a detainee's provision of useful information, I believe effective, non- coercive methods are available to elicit such information," he further said.

Brennan said the CIA's detention and interrogation programmes came amid fear of another wave of assaults from al-Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks as the intelligence agency grappled with a task it was "not prepared" for.

"In many respects, the program was uncharted territory for the CIA and we were not prepared. We had little experience housing detainees and precious few of our officers were trained interrogators. But the President authorized the effort six days after 9/11 and it was our job to carry it out," he said.

"The CIA was unprepared to conduct a detention and interrogation program. Our officers inadequately developed and monitored its initial activities. The agency failed to establish quickly the operational guidelines needed to govern the entire effort," Brennan said.

"In a limited number of cases, agency officers used interrogation techniques that had not been authorized, were abhorrent, and rightly should be repudiated by all. We fell short when it came to holding some officers accountable for their mistakes," he said.

"They went outside of the bounds and terms of their actions that - as part of that interrogation process. And they were harsh. In some instances, I considered them abhorrent, and I will leave to others how they might want to label those activities," he added. .

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